29 December 2007

Powder so deep...

Just sitting here enjoying a nice hot cup of tea after braving the cold and the wind today to get my fix of freshies. Actually had to traverse down the checklist to option D today. This was because of several factor, the first being avoid I-70 at all costs on a weekend. Sitting in traffic sucks; sitting in traffic by yourself sucks more; and sitting in traffic by yourself and having to go to the bathroom is sweat-inducing, kidney stone-developing agony.

Another factor was, well, I'll let the table tell the story.

That's cold folks; that's nose hair-freezing, eyelash-riming, why was I ever born cold people.

So I bumped around a few hours this morning until it hit 18 degrees, got my things together and hit a spot lower in elevation, tree-covered - to avoid the nasty wind slabs that are developing above treeline currently - and usually holds some deep pockets of powder. I got my powder alright, a little too much.

Somebody had already set up a skin track, and I followed it up, appreciating the ease of not having to break trail. The track came to an end but there was still more hill, so swooshing through the powder I went up and up and more up - um, maybe I shouldn't have gone so much up.

You can watch the video of my highpoint, or the point where my sanity began kicking in here.

I hit rocky terrain and no real open slope; going down was going to require some tight navigation.

Did better than I thought on my first run down. Did scrape a couple of boulders and once again found a buried boulder that I hucked without my consent.

The second run I didn't go nearly as high up, stopping a couple hundred feet lower and found some nice slopes and linked some fun turns. The key was keeping spongy knees and keeping a downhill line. The third run was even better as my quads seemed to be awaking from their week-long slumber.

Voy a ir a Cerro Chirripo

Last night I bought my ticket to Costa Rica. Very excited about this 8-day trip. Need to brush up on the Spanish again and start figuring out an itinerary. I know the one spot I will hit is the tallest point in Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripo.

I foresee my climbing shoes and chalkbag being packed.

The cool thing is there is a hostel about 16 kilometers up you can stay in, hit the summit the next morning and explore the trail system. Now I just need to get my second Hep B shot and update a couple of other boosters as well.

ARTIST OF POST - Radiohead. Was grooving to this song on the drive up to the backcountry stash.

27 December 2007

Children are good for the soul

Christmas was ... different this year. And I can admit it was very difficult on the days leading up to the celebratory day, so much I didn't want to fly to Chicago to spend the time with my family.

The holidays are a fecundity to emotions - both positive and negative; it is a moment for reflection as you take stock of what is dear, how you celebrate those whom are important, and how you might have been too cavalier in your appreciation - it is easy to take family for granted since they have been there for your life.

Getting through this was much easier with a diminutive, 26-month-old Avatar who greeted me every morning with the mantra of, "Get up Dude. Get up Dude. Get up Dude."

The memories of playing with my little niece, be it coloring (yes I stayed within the lines), running around the dining room table until I got dizzy or playing hide n seek with her will be cherished ones - and probably good fodder for when she gets old enough to start dating!!

The only awkward part was when she arrived at my bedroom in my sister's house to begin her morning chanting. Dane had brought up her big gift the night before while she slept - a new Radio Flyer tricycle. As I fought through the fog that swirls in my head during the journey to consciousness, she turned around and spied the gift.

"Bicycle? Hannah bicycle?" she asked looking at me quizzically and waiting for the affirmation to answer her questions.

Uh oh! This was supposed to be a surprise that was to be shared with her parents, not a sleepy, half-naked dude.

"Um, go ask daddy. Go get daddy."

Unfortunately that experience was stolen away from Heather and Dane, but don't worry guys, it is locked away safely in my memory and it was incredible seeing the cognizance take shape in her face.

Hannah looks out the window after her cousins left Christmas night

Unfortunately I had used my new camera for a total of two minutes before this picture was taken. The lighting present was perfect, bathing Hannah in a ocher glow that tickled her face before surrendering to the darkness. I guess I have some reading to do.

ARTIST OF POST - Jack Johnson. Because I can't help but think of my little niece when I hear the "monkey song".

09 December 2007

I left my heart in Seattle, and my mittens, and my...

When going on a trip, it isn't a matter of "Did I forget something?" as much as it is, "What did I forget?"

I had a reverse case of this and it didn't show up until this morning as I packed up to go on a snowshoe trip. I already knew I lost my OR shell mittens. Those were good gloves that have been on many adventures. The backpack I was borrowing didn't have a pocket for my avy shovel. So it needed to be tied up to the pack's daisy chain. Well, the upper pocket wasn't zipped up all of the way (1/2 inch open) and the weight of the shovel and my jostling caused the pocket to open.

I know the area where my mitts are at. The chances of ever finding them again are slim to none. Given that it was a matter of survival skiing back down on Thursday due to consolidated snow with the death ice crust on top, I wasn't going to go traversing the steep slopes I skied down again for two miles for the mitts.

Also MIA is my pair of gaiters and my fleece insert gloves. Those I am pretty sure are in the basement of Mike & Mary's house.

I managed to get by without them on my trip up outside of Evergreen. Though I feel if there was another six inches of snow, it would have not only made the journey more enjoyable, but I would've had some wet feet going sans gaiters.

The area was pretty with all of the pines covered with snow and the views were rather good from the summit rocks. Only Evans and Bierstadt of the big mountains were showing due to high clouds. Nearly lost my binoculars. As I scrambled over to a pedestal rock, I slipped on the snow-covered slab and my binocs went flying from my hand. Thankfully it came to a rest only shortly below me. A few more feet and they would have landed a good 2-3 hundred feet down.

ARTIST OF THE POST - Billy Bragg. Hard to believe this song was written over 20 years ago. It still rocks.

05 December 2007

Breaking trail & 100-year floods

Continuing my trend of bringing moisture to whenever, wherever I recreate, the Pineapple Express moved into the Seattle area shortly after I touched down at the airport on Saturday.

A slight dusting coated the metro area as I landed and by the next day, the thermometer climbed and we were in the mid to upper 50s at night. The deluge continued through the night and the next morning.

Monday saw Mike and I relaxing, drinking coffee and catching up before getting our lounging butts in gear and going for a nice hike up Cougar Mountain. We went a little this way and that picking trails as we came to their junctions. We wound up turning around after going to Coal Creek waterfall.

I was informed that this is normally a nominal trickle in the summer. After the bombardment of rain the area had received, this thing was powerful enough to move big diesel trucks. We were wet - well we were wet anyways, this is western Washington after all - from the spray generated by this torrent, frothing like a El Salvidorian mutt.

We never went and collected our stipend from King County Natural Resources for all of the trailwork we did. We diverted some channels to get standing water off the trail, removed some debris that was blocking streams and broke off the branches off a large hemlock that decided to lay down over the trail and take a rest.

Just got back today from spending time up at Hyak on a ski tour. Mike was floundering in his snowshoes as the snow crust was that flirtatious, "I'll hold your weight. Nope, I won't." It was rather taxing for him. So after a mile or so in, I got out of the nice ski tracks laid down and broke trail on the side. It was much easier for him and slowed me down as well.

We had rain, snow and wintery mix - swear to God, NOAA used that term in a forecast. Some of the peaks occasionally showed through the dreary cloud cover, but for the most part, we were surrounded by mature Douglas Firs, hemlocks and the occasional cedar and the gray mantle of mist that blew over Snoqualmie Pass.

After around 4 miles, it seemed like a good turnaround point; we didn't want to use up our legs and not go out on Thursday. So off came the climbing skins and much fun was had on the way down for me.

Thursday a quick tour and some serious turns are scheduled off of Alpental. The avalanche danger has subsided greatly after a deadly weekend - two people were buried and killed up near Snow Lake and three snowboarders are still missing out by Crystal Mtn.

I'll get to show Mike how to dig a snow pit and do a shovel shear test. If all the signs are good, we hopefully will get some nice bombardier runs in the Cascadian concrete.

And hopefully we'll remember the camera this time!!